I’ve heard many people say these words, “When I get to heaven, the first person I want to meet after I see Jesus is….” Then, they proceed to say the name of a wonderful Bible character, many of whom I’d like to meet, too. Paul, Peter, David, the list goes on and on. Well, the person I want to meet after I see Jesus is Barnabas. Why? You ask.
Well, I’ve always admired Barnabas for sticking up for Paul when he had NO friends in the believing world. But I decided to take another look at him when I found out one of my top two spiritual gifts was “encouragement.” Barnabas means “son of encouragement.” And that’s just what he did.
I spent over a week looking up every mention of Barnabas in the Scripture and writing down a corresponding character trait that he showed from those passages. There were over 25 of them. AND, there was only one time he was mentioned in a negative light. Galatians 2:13 speaks of Paul opposing Peter and the other believers and he makes this statement about Barnabas, “And even Barnabas was led astray…” I chuckled when I realized there was a veiled compliment in that statement. “EVEN” Barnabas. Paul could scarcely believe his ears.
The encouragement that Barnabas must have been to so many came back to my memory when I heard that one of my mentors was getting ready to step into the Presence of Jesus. Ninety-three year old Arlene Butchart has encouraged me more than I can say in this short writing. Every time we would leave her after visiting for a while, I would say exactly the same thing to my husband, Michael, “When I grow up, I want to be just like Arlene!” He chuckled the last time I said those words with a quip of his own, “When will that be? You’re already 67 years old.”
When I think of Arlene, I think of Barnabas. Always moving his listener toward Jesus. Always giving someone a firm grip of grace. Always showing what Jesus would do, rather than telling. Arlene always did those things for me.
And then, my heart turned and looked at Jesus. (Yes, our hearts have eyes.) He smiled and let me know He was looking forward to welcoming her into His kingdom. Then, His look said it all to me, “Go thou, and do likewise.” I nodded, smiled, and turned to see who God was bringing into my world next.